Joint Press Availability With Ambassador Kim Hong-kyun, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs

Press Availability
Sung Kim
Special Representative for North Korea Policy 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Seoul, South Korea
September 13, 2016

S/R KIM HONG-KYUN: Today, we have analyzed and examined the North’s fifth nuclear test, and discussed in-depth about the sanctions against the North. As President Obama’s statement said, we have reaffirmed that the U.S. will provide all available defense capabilities to protect South Korea from the threat of North Korea, and provide extended nuclear deterrence.

Since the fourth nuclear test in last January, as North Korea has raised the severity of its threat by launching missiles and conducting another nuclear test, we cannot exclude the possibility of extra provocation. We will try to strengthen our nuclear deterrence, and come up with stronger sanctions on the North in cooperation with the international community, in order to create an environment where the North must change course.

Resolution 2770 has been effective in pressuring the North in many areas. And we will continue to put UNSC-wide, individual state-wide and global-wide pressure on the North. We both recognize the importance of China and Russia’s cooperation in order to increase the effectiveness of the sanctions against the North; thus we will continue the dialogue with Russia and China.

Although North Korea claimed that it conducted its fifth nuclear test in order to show that the sanctions had not been effective, we have concluded that the North conducted its extremely dangerous and reckless nuclear test because it felt pressure from our effective sanctions.

AMBASSADOR KIM: Thank you very much, Ambassador Kim. Last night and again this morning we had very productive discussions on our work together to respond to North Korea’s dangerous and provocative actions.

This is indeed a critical moment for continued U.S.-ROK coordination, and our cooperation with the other members of the Six-Party process.

With this latest nuclear test, the 2nd this year and fifth overall, and its over 20 missile launches just this year - North Korea once again demonstrated blatant and reckless disregard for its commitments and international obligations. This is quite unprecedented, even by North Korean standards.

In the face of this growing threat from North Korea, President Obama has reaffirmed very clearly our unshakeable commitment to take necessary measures to defend the ROK and our other regional allies, including our strong extended deterrence commitments, which are guaranteed by the full range of U.S. defense capabilities. Let me be clear: our commitment to our allies is absolute; there is no ambiguity and no wavering.

President Obama, President Park, Prime Minister Abe, and many other leaders agree that the DPRK’s dangerous actions require a strong multilateral response at the United Nations.

We are of course working closely with the UN Security Council, Six-Party partners, and the broader international community to ensure full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2270 and other existing resolutions and to take additional significant steps, including new sanctions, to demonstrate to North Korea that there are indeed serious consequences for its unlawful and dangerous actions.

I think that it’s clear that the latest nuclear test has strengthened, bolstered international resolve to hold the DPRK accountable. In fact almost 80 countries have issued strong condemnation of North Korea’s actions.

And within the Six-Party process there is unity in condemning North Korea’s actions and determination to cooperate towards a strong UN Security Council response.

Before coming to Seoul, I visited Tokyo and had very productive consultations with our counterpart Director General Kanasugi and other senior Japanese officials.

And just yesterday I also had a lengthy telephone conversation with the Chinese Special Representative, Ambassador Wu Dawei. And this afternoon I will be talking to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Morgulov. And, of course, Special Representative Kim and I will continue our close coordination in the days and weeks ahead.

And finally, let me note that in addition to our efforts at the UN Security Council, both the United States and the ROK will be considering additional unilateral measures in response to North Korea’s destabilizing actions. We are also considering, together with Japan, possible trilateral initiatives.

Thank you and happy Chuseok everyone.

QUESTION: I am from Arirang TV. My question goes to both sides. On the UN Security Council sanctions front, when can we expect the first draft and also how strong have the sanctions become? Were there any discussions on North Korean leader Kim Jung-un adding onto the list or any discussions on restrictions of trade of crude oil with China? How are you planning to get China and Russia on the same page on adding stronger measures? Are there any plans of meeting your Chinese and Russian counterparts in the near future?

AMBASSADOR KIM: Thank you. I think it’s a little early in our process to be answering your questions specifically, but I will say that our intention, and this is shared by/with the Republic of Korea, is to secure the strongest possible resolution that includes new sanctions as quickly as possible. As I mentioned, I think there is consensus among the members of the Security Council and certainly among members of the six-party process that the situation requires a swift and strong international response and so we’ll be working very hard in cooperation with the ROK, Japan, and all of our partners and indeed with China and Russia to seek here the strongest possible resolution as quickly as possible.

S/R KIM HONG-KYUN: Our (U.S.-ROK) goal is to conclude negotiations on the additional UNSC resolution as soon as possible which will include stronger sanctions and close the loopholes in Resolution 2270. In regard to China’s cooperation, China has directly participated in the process of creating Resolution 2270, and always promised its complete and exhaustive commitment to the Resolution. We expect that China, as a member of UNSC and a country directly involved in resolving North Korean issues, would play a responsible role in the process of adopting the additional UNSC resolution, as well as keeping its commitment to the existing Resolution.

Question: Following the fourth nuclear test earlier this year, the UN Security Council adopted the toughest set of sanctions ever. It produced some results. There was pressure and sanctions imposed against Pyongyang, but Pyongyang pressed ahead with the fifth nuclear test anyway. In the United States and Korea as well there are some views, especially questions on the effectiveness of sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang because that did not stop the North from conducting another nuclear test and there are people who raise the need for dialogue, maybe six-party talks, two plus two, or North Korea-U.S. dialogue as it goes forward. What is your view of this? I do understand the official position of the U.S. government. Is it still that the denuclearization of North Korea should come first before any dialogue or is it time for you or for the U.S. government to think about new ideas or creative solutions to resolve and address the current issues?

AMBASSADOR KIM: Thank you very much. I know there’s a lot of frustration and concern that sanctions and pressure have not resulted in immediate or instant success, but I think it’s important to remember that pressure and sanctions need time. It requires sustained and concerted effort, systematic effort, to really have the kind of effect that we desire. And let’s not forget that Security Council Resolution 2270 was passed only about six months ago in March, so I really do think that we need to give it more time to have the kind of effect that all of us are looking for.

I think it is also important to recognize that while Security Council Resolution 2270 and other sanctions have not been successful in deterring North Korean provocation I think the sanctions have had some effect in making it hard for North Korea to earn foreign currencies to support illicit activities. That’s a very important goal.

With regards to possible resumption of dialogue, as you know, President Obama and other senior officials of the U.S. government have made very clear that we remain open to credible, meaningful, authentic dialogue on denuclearization.

And you mention many formats that may be considered. Frankly, I don’t think it is a question of different formats, I think it is a question of North Korean intentions and commitment. If the North Koreans are ready to talk to us sincerely about denuclearization, I think we can work with them in the six-party process. I do believe that the six-party process remains a viable forum for addressing North Korea’s nuclear issue.

As we said just last week, I think President Obama made clear again our willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue, but unfortunately what we are seeing from North Korea is not a sincere interest in dialogue, but a series of unprecedented level of provocation.

QUESTION: This is the end of the Obama administration term and the presidential race is currently on in the United States, so because of what’s going on in terms of the domestic politics and people point out that the U.S. policy and pressure and sanctions against Pyongyang are losing momentum, is not really gaining momentum. So I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how much of a priority it is for the administration to address the denuclearization of North Korea and also, as you mentioned in your opening, there is a growing argument in Korea that Korea itself should acquire nuclear weapons and this argument is gaining ground, but in your opening you just mentioned that the U.S. is ready to provide all the available defensive capabilities including extended deterrence so what is the U.S. government’s position on some of the arguments that the tactical U.S. nuclear weapons should be redeployed to the Peninsula or that Korea should acquire its own nuclear weapons?

AMBASSADOR KIM: Thank you very much. Without commenting on politics, I can assure you that North Korea and the challenge provided by North Korea occupies a very high priority spot in the U.S. government.

Starting with President Obama, the senior leadership in the U.S. government is very much focused on how we can work with the Republic of Korea and our other partners to try to address this issue in an effective manner.

And I fully expect that through the political transition in Washington that focus, the emphasis, and that priority will remain in place.

On the question of reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula, the U.S.-ROK alliance is truly one of the strongest alliances we have anywhere. We have confidence that we have the capabilities to defend against the threat posed by North Korea. Of course, that includes our extended deterrence commitment to the Republic of Korea. Our leaders and, more importantly, our military leaders have determined that there is no need to reintroduce nuclear weapons on the Peninsula and that what we have now in the strong foundation of our alliance, and all of the efforts that we are continuing to make to strengthen that alliance, including of course our decision to deploy the THAAD Missile Defense System on the Peninsula and our unshakable commitment regarding extended deterrence, is more than sufficient to deal with the threat posed by North Korea.

QUESTION: Ambassador Sung Kim, you mentioned that you had a discussion with your Chinese counterpart. The Chinese do seem to have made clear that they do not see sanctions as the way to address the North Korean problem. I am wondering if you can tell us anything about whether your Chinese counterpart gave you any indication that the Chinese would accept further sanctions on North Korea and specifically, these loopholes that people have talked about in the 2270 Resolution that China requested … there has been talk about closing those loopholes. Is there any indication from the Chinese side that they would accept that course of action? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR KIM: Thanks, Allister. Nice to see you. I don’t want to disclose the contents of our private diplomatic communication with the Chinese, but I can tell you that China has been very clear in condemning and opposing North Korea’s nuclear activities, including the latest nuclear test.

I can also tell you that China has been very clear that they understand the need for another Security Council Resolution due to the recent nuclear test.

As Ambassador Kim mentioned earlier, China is as responsible for UN Security Council Resolution 2270 as us, so I think they have a stake in making sure that 2270 and other resolutions are implemented fully.

So in this regard, we look forward to working with Beijing to build on the foundation of 2270 and to try to close any loopholes are existing in 2270.